When Jennifer’s parents found out she is gay, they kicked her out and changed the locks. But that hasn’t stopped her from marrying the love of her life.
To get to that special day, she had to overcome her parents’ strict Jehovah’s Witness religion and manage a long-distance relationship.
Now she and her wife Samantha are sharing the story of their relationship and their wedding with other LGBT+ people. They particularly want to help others going through the same kinds of challenges they faced.
‘I felt like I needed to suppress those feelings’
Jennifer’s parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and, as their daughter, she was expected to share their beliefs.
She told GSN: ‘I was never offered the chance to explore other beliefs. If I even considered the thought, I’d be heavily looked down upon. So, growing up as a closeted gay who also happened to be a Jehovah Witness isn’t your ideal situation.’
Despite this Jennifer long suspected she is a lesbian. She says she had relationships with boys in high school behind her parents’ back. But she never felt anything for them.
On the other hand, when she had a crush on a girl, the feeling was far more intense.
‘However, since I was a JW and living under my parents’ roof, I felt like I needed to suppress those feelings and thoughts.
‘Even though I was forced into this religion as a child, I was never a “full believer”. But since my parents held important titles at the church, I had to maintain an image for their sake.’
‘My entire world came crashing down’
But in June 2014, she met Samantha by chance on Twitter.
‘We both actually had Demi Lovato fan accounts (LOL!) and had a mutual follower,’ Jen recalls. ‘It was literally fate.’
They started chatting and realized they shared a birthday on 24 January. Soon they started a secret relationship. But the happy ending for this lesbian couple was still a way off.
Jennifer’s parents met Sam when she came to visit, but only knew her as their daughter’s ‘best friend’. However, the couple were about to be exposed.
‘This member from my church found my Instagram pictures I uploaded with Sam and confronted me about it.
‘She explicitly said that she had no choice but to inform the church elders about my homosexual relationship. She didn’t even consider the consequences I’d endure as an 18-year-old.
‘My entire world felt like it came crashing down.
‘Shortly after, my parents lost their privileges from the church. My dad, who was an elder at the time, got his title revoked.
‘My parents ended up moving to a different congregation and that’s when everything began to crumble. I was threatened to be kicked out of the house if I were to continue my relationship with Sam. And, of course, the locks were then changed.
‘Luckily, my best friend and her amazing family took me in for the time being until Sam and I finally moved in together.’
‘My mom made my life a living hell’
Jennifer’s relationship with her parents would never be the same.
She says: ‘My mom made my life a living hell. My parents, especially my mom, made every effort to remind me that I ruined our family and especially tainted my family’s image. I felt like an embarrassment and disappointment.
‘I allowed myself to sulk into these thoughts of guilt and felt responsible for something that was entirely out of my control.’
Looking back, Jen now recognizes that she always knew her parents would shun her when they discovered her sexuality.
She adds: ‘I just struggled to accept that for some time. Given all the emotional and physical stress I stomached, I can now say that I am free. My only regret is that I didn’t give myself enough credit or support.’
Meanwhile, Sam and Jen continued their long-distance relationship.
‘Sam and I were in a long-distance relationship for three years. She lived in Connecticut while I lived in Miami, Florida.
‘Being in a long-distance relationship had its moments of hardship, but we tried our best to make it easy for each other.
‘We were very conscious of being open and communicative. We’d make an effort to visit each other at least every 2 or 3 months, but it would also depend on our financial situation.
‘Being physically apart from your significant other means having to make up for the lack of physical intimacy. You have to find ways to feel connected and close to your partner.
‘It should never feel like a chore though. It’s a challenge that you both agreed to overcome by being committed to one another. Being completely honest and open with each other will only make you grow closer, if you allow it.
‘And I’d do it all over again if it means I end up with Sam.’
‘We fell into a routine, adopted cats and made a home’
Once Sam graduated college, she moved to Miami in 2017. The couple got their first apartment together.
‘We loved every aspect of living together,’ Jen says. ‘Finally, we were able to go to sleep and wake up, day in and day out, without the anxiety of having to catch a plane back home.
‘We fell into our routine, adopted a couple cats (classic lesbian stereotype: check!) and made a home together.’
Then in October 2018, Sam proposed.
‘We decided to plan a wedding in Connecticut, where Sam is from. We knew that my family (just a handful of people) wouldn’t be attending anyway, whereas Sam’s gigantic Irish family would all be in attendance.
‘We then decided to move back to Connecticut to finish planning, as it was so much easier to plan while you’re in the same state. We currently live here still but plan to move back to the Sunshine State this summer.’
Celebrating true love
On their website, LiveLoveLesbian.com, the newlyweds share their wedding tips.
Jen says: ‘We LOVED every part of planning our wedding. It didn’t even occur to us that a two-bride wedding would be any different.
‘However, we quickly realized a few unique needs that went along with a lesbian wedding. For example, we realized that we’d need to do some heavier research to ensure our vendors (photographer, videographer, DJ, etc.) were open and respectful of our relationship.’
Naturally, Jennifer’s parents weren’t going to come. But that didn’t stop them loving the day.
Sam says: ‘I know everyone says their wedding is the best but ours literally was, lol. We had all our closest friends and family gathered in a single room celebrating our love story.
‘My favorite part was when we were eating dinner. I took a moment to look around the room at everyone who was there, everyone who took a few hours from their busy lives to celebrate with us.
‘It didn’t matter that we were lesbian. It didn’t matter that we were both in white dresses. All that mattered was that we both found true love in one another.’
Embraced by the family
And Sam’s big family has welcomed Jen into their lives.
Sam says: ‘My family has been amazing throughout our entire relationship.
‘I wasn’t out to my family at the time that our relationship started either, but my parents and siblings allowed me the time and space I needed to be honest with them.
‘From the moment they all met Jen, they’ve been nothing but supportive and loving. I come from a huge, tight-knit family of aunts, uncles and cousins, and they’ve all made it abundantly clear that my happiness is the only thing that matters.
‘Jen’s been on every one of my family vacations since we started dating, and she’s always been considered the “24th cousin”.’
Sam and Jen’s message as they start married life
Since the wedding, little has changed, Jen says:
‘Honestly, married life (these four amazing weeks LOL) hasn’t been much different. We’ve always been in sync, from the moment we met. From sharing clothes to sharing the last bites of our dessert.
‘But it does feel a bit more… official? Going out, I can’t introduce Jen as my “girlfriend” or my “fiancé” anymore… she’s my wife. Which simultaneously makes me get goosebumps and feel like I should be treating myself to an early bird dinner special and getting in bed by 7pm.’
However, they say they are in awe at the amount of love they’ve received since they shared their wedding photos. They hope their story will inspire others.
Jen says: ‘Our main goal has been and always will be to inspire anyone in the LGBTQ+ community to be unapologetically true to themselves.
‘We especially enjoy listening to and speaking with those who are struggling in their own scenarios. As someone who has been through hell and back due to simply being myself, I want to be a source of healing and light to anyone who needs it.
‘I wish I had someone to vent to in my darkest times. And I often found solace reading blogs and articles written by those in similar situations. Nobody should feel like an outcast for living the life they love.’
You can follow Jennifer Del Toro and Samantha Del Toro on Instagram.